CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus acknowledged he’s had some “generic” conversations with Sandy Montag about Peyton Manning—Montag handles Manning’s broadcast interests—but the CBS Sports chairman described those conversations as “nothing specific about his [Manning’s] interest or CBS’s interest.”
When SI.com asked if he believed Manning preferred game work to studio work should he enter broadcasting, McManus smiled broadly. “You really think I’m going to [answer that]?”
Most sports TV executives I’ve spoken with—and caveat emptor on this—are betting that Manning will not go into sports broadcasting full-time. Could he do a one-year stint or a couple of one-offs? We’ll see.
“All we have said is that if he has interest in becoming a broadcaster, we would be happy having a conversation with him,” McManus said. “But I know as much as you do.”
In my opinion, CBS remains the favorite to land Manning should he decide to enter the profession.
The noise report
(SI.com examines the some of the week’s most notable sports media stories)
1. Here’s something no one could have imagined 25 years ago: TBS will broadcast the NCAA men’s basketball title game from Houston on April 4 shortly after 9 p.m. ET, the first time the title game has been televised on cable in the 78-year history of the event. If you plan on watching the tournament, here’s the annual SI.com March Madness Television Guide, with all the info on CBS and Turner’s plans.
1a. The ratings for CBS’s Selection Sunday show drew a 3.7 overnight rating, the telecast’s lowest figure since at least 1995 (when the show expanded from 30 minutes to one hour), according to Sports Business Daily assistant managing editor Austin Karp. The show was down from a 4.2 overnight in 2014 and has not topped a 5.0 overnight since ’05. Karp reported that ESPN drew a 1.1 for its “Bracketology” telecast from 7–9 p.m., down from a 1.4 overnight last year. Here’s The New York Times on the Selection Show and viewer outrage.
1b. CBS Sports personality Doug Gottlieb defended the execution of the Selection Show here.
2. The former ESPN host Robert Flores has been hired by MLB Network and NHL Network to serve as a studio host across both networks’ programming. Flores will make his debut on MLB Tonight March 21 at 7 p.m. ET, and he will host NHL Tonight for the first time on March 23 at 7 p.m. ET. Flores will also have a presence on MLB.com and Sports On Earth.
2a. A group of ESPN Chicago refugees have started a new subscription-based sports site (there is some free content) in Chicago titled The Athletic Chicago. It’s a high-quality offering.
Last week I had an email exchange with Jon Greenberg, the site’s editor and a columnist, about how the site came together. The other fulltime staffers include baseball columnist Sahadev Sharma, who worked at ESPN Chicago and for Baseball Prospectus, and Scott Powers, who covers the Blackhawks. Both Greenberg and Powers were dropped by ESPN last year after producing excellent work.
SI.com: What was the genesis for founding the site?
Greenberg: In late November, two young San Francisco entrepreneurs contacted me—through LinkedIn of all places—about starting The Athletic. I had about a month left on my ESPN contract, so I was pretty down about my future prospects, given the market and all. I was really skeptical, expecting the worst, some dreamers with big promises. But these were smart people with a good idea (in theory): Intelligent sports writing with a push toward analytics. They also were willing to pay competitive salaries, so I could tell they were serious. It’s a risk, but I could see how this site could succeed where others didn’t. They had the CMS built out and it looked great. Frankly, I liked the name. Too many of these websites have terrible names with ‘fan’ jammed in there.
SI.com: What is the site’s purpose?
Greenberg: The high-minded purpose of The Athletic is to cover Chicago sports and give readers some unique and fresh information on local teams. We’re providing "premium" content and there’s pressure to do that, because we are selling subscriptions. ($50 for a year, $10 a month, special season plans) . As a recent member of the local "mainstream media," I wouldn’t criticize my peers, like so many people at new, self-conscious sites seem eager to do. Writers and editors at the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Comcast, the Daily Herald and the local ESPN writers all do a great job and provide a valuable service. But none of those entities are growing. In many cases, they’re shrinking, which is a shame for journalism and for sports fans. This is a great, great sports town and fans want different voices, more angles. So while we’re doing breaking news and recaps, but we’re also trying to dig deeper and give fans a better understanding of why things happened or why they will happen.
SI.com: Why is this site worth the investment of readers?
Greenberg: We’re marketing ourselves to insatiable Chicago sports fans who want the most information on their teams. We want to tell our readers why Jake Arrieta’s changeup is important or how Teuvo Teravainen’s scoring downturn is affected by what line he’s on. What’s Derrick Rose doing well? Anyone can just spout an opinion (as a columnist, I know that all too well), but we’re not out to ‘troll’ fans. Everyone’s tired of that act. We’re coming at Chicago with intelligent writing and interesting research, a professional approach with a sense of humor. So far, we’ve gotten very good responses from fans, local media and the teams themselves. We’ve been experimenting with different things and it’s all going to come together in time for baseball season. I really believe our site will be a must-visit for Cubs and White Sox fans this season, not to mention the Blackhawks’ playoff run. If you love Chicago sports, you’ll enjoy our site and you will want to subscribe.
3. Episode No. 46 of the Sports Illustrated Media Podcast features ESPN NBA senior writer Zach Lowe. Along with his written and television work, Lowe also hosts a very popular NBA podcast, The Lowe Post.
In this episode, Lowe discusses his journalism path from covering crime at the Stanford Advocate and legal issues at American Lawyer to becoming one of the preeminent NBA media voices, how he determines interesting NBA content, how he determines what NBA games to watch on a given night, the danger of NBA broadcasters who are big homers, getting hired by Grantland and why Bill Simmons was a good boss, the dissolution of Grantland, how to get better as a podcaster, whether he would consider working for an NBA front office, why Twitter has been a net negative for him, whether he would consider working elsewhere outside of ESPN, the L.A. house rented by The Ringer for its staffers, whether any player has approached him after he wrote something negative, and much more.
A reminder: you can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes and Stitcher, and you can view all of SI’s podcasts here. If you have any feedback, questions or suggestions, please comment here or tweet at Deitsch.
4. The Ringer—the upcoming sports, pop culture and tech site under the Bill Simmons umbrella—announced 11 new fulltime hires on Monday including former Grantland writers Katie Baker and Jason Concepcion. The list of new Ringer hires also includes Allison P. Davis (Staff Writer), Jason Gallagher (Social Media, Video), Sam Donsky (Staff Writer), Alison Herman (Staff Writer), Molly McHugh (Articles Editor), Sam Schube (Associate Editor) Megan Schuster (Researcher), Jonathan Tjarks (Staff Writer), and Lindsay Zoladz (Staff Writer). That brings the fulltime edit staffing levels to over 20 people. Simmons said the newsletter for The Ringer is up to 145,0000 subscribers, a great number for a start-up.
5. Deadline Hollywood reported that Walden Media has acquired the life story of former ESPN producer Lisa Fenn, Dartanyon Crockett and Leroy Sutton, with Nate Parker (The Birth of A Nation) writing the script. Fenn’s upcoming book, about the remarkable friendship between former Cleveland high school wrestlers Crockett and Sutton and her role in becoming part of their family, will be released by HarperCollins in August. As I wrote in July 2013, I believe ESPN’s feature on Fenn, Crockett and Sutton is the best piece the network has ever produced.
5a. Yahoo Sports! has signed a distribution agreement with WWE personality Paul Heyman, his “Heyman Hustle” website and his marketing agency. Yahoo! says the agreement starts March 28, with Heyman providing exclusive content on Yahoo’s Turnstile blog. Yahoo! will be producing “A Day in the Life of The Advocate,” leading up to WrestleMania 32 at AT&T Stadium in Dallas on April 3.
5b. Young filmmakers Sandra Chuma and Nyasha Kadandara won the inaugural NBC Sports sports film contest CPTR’D (Captured). Their doc, Queens & Knights, highlighted the story of the Gotham Knights, an inclusive Rugby team on Randall’s Island in New York City.
5c. Thanks to Utah Jazz broadcaster David Locke for the podcast invite. You can listen to Episode 10 here.
5d. Richard Sandomir of the New York Times recently profiled ESPN MLB analyst Jesscia Mendoza.
5e. The Fall of Johnny Football, by The MMQB’s Emily Kaplan.